‘Nothing can prepare you for the reaction of the children’: An insight into life as a panto dame

Craig Ansell

Craig Ansell

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Craig Ansell is a man on a mission – to bring fun and wide-eyed amazement to hundreds of young pantomime fans.

Craig is the man who is playing the panto dame at the Forum Theatre in Billingham this year.

The cast of the Billingham Forum Theatre panto Goldilocks

The cast of the Billingham Forum Theatre panto Goldilocks

He is playing Dame Tilly Tart in Goldilocks & The Three Amazing Bears, it’s a task which takes a lot of getting ready for.

The Worcestershire lad is playing the wicked mum of Goldilocks.

He said: “Putting on the make-up can take an hour and 40 minutes and then the wardrobe person comes in.”

Getting dressed as a dame is a well-structured process that requires careful planning. After all, you’re going to have hundreds of people watching your every move.

I am the first one in and it’s all quiet. I have a cup of tea first, get my thoughts together and then I get on with it. Putting on the make-up can take an hour and 40 minutes

Craig Ansell

This is when the layers begin to build up.

First, there’s the drag skins. It’s a layer of clothing which goes under everything else – a protective covering.

Next, he gets into his multi-coloured socks and bloomers and finally the enormously colourful dress that goes on top of it all.

The whole process takes two hours and the show is performed twice a day. That means two stints in make-up and four hours of getting ready for work.

Forum Theatre panto Goldilocks - Dame Tilly  (Craig Ansell)

Forum Theatre panto Goldilocks - Dame Tilly (Craig Ansell)

“By about 10pm, I am ready to de-grease,” he admits.

And to add to it all, there’s nine costume changes in each show. And because of the rigours of the performance, the make-up can tend to run – meaning Craig has to re-do it all again for the second show.

If that’s not enough, Goldilocks & The Three Amazing Bears includes a fast-moving rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas which involves 
a lot of running around 
stage – in an enormous gown and giant wig.

But there’s one overriding reason why it is all worth it.

“Nothing can prepare you for the reaction of the children. That is what panto is to me. It is when they are shouting out and they totally believe in everything you do, it is magical.

“Even the adults become children again.”

He described Goldilocks as “an absolute dream to work on” and this year’s cast was wonderful.

Goldilocks & The Three Amazing Bears runs from this Saturday until Sunday, January 3.

For details of show 
times and ticket prices, contact the Forum Theatre box office on (01642) 552663, or visit http://www.forumtheatrebillingham.co.uk/